Take the Chill off Modern Architecture
Here's how to use natural materials, wellcrafted details, and openplan spaces to make a minimalist house inviting.
Natural materials define the Frank Lloyd Wright—inspired facade right from the curb, with exterior cladding that mixes a stucco finish, real stone veneer, and the same reclaimed redwood found inside the house. Bluestone steps that seem to hover above a cascading water feature lead to an imposing front door of quartersawn oak. A steel frame hidden inside black-stained oak trim allows the door to "float" between oversized panels of textured glass.
At one end of a long dining room at the finished Cambridge TV-show project house is a library area, where the ceiling soars to 13 1/2 feet. Tall shelves, a stone-veneer chimney, and windows masked from the street by shoji screens define the homey space, which homeowner George Mabry says he will u se every day. "I'll have dinner parties," he says. "But I didn't want the room gathering dust the rest of the time."
Just inside the front door is a show-stopping staircase, floating before a stacked stone wall that echoes the exterior chimney and foundation. The 4-inch-thick stair treads, as well as the railings, are made of reclaimed teak from 100-year-old pole buildings in Southeast Asia. Curved bronze balusters, designed by Tsiang to look like tree branches, add a metallic contrast without looking industrial.
Handmade tiles surround the tub area of the master bath, running up the walls vertically and wrapping the space in earthy tones of blue, green, and brown. The dark wood of the window frames is repeated in the freestanding sink wall and cantilevered vanity, where speckled Jura green limestone softens the room's rectangular lines.
The bar combines stainless-steel appliances with natural surfaces, like a softly honed slate counter and handmade fusedglass backsplash tiles that give the room a warm, colorful glow.
The dining room, where a large table fills the eating area, has a couple of cozy nooks where George can relax alone or with guests. Darkstained wood shelves provide a dramatic backdrop for his art pottery collection.
"I don't understand stuffy living rooms that get used once a year," says George. His retained most of its original elements: a windowed wall, a bluestone fireplace surround, and wood paneling—now redwood reclaimed from old olivecuring
tanks. The new plasma
TV can be hidden
behind a redwood panel
into the floor.
The new kitchen has updated cabinets and more room in front of the refrigerator wall. It also has casual seating at the island, perfect for party guests who migrate there.